What do you REALLY know about your supplements?

suppsIn light of recent news reports coming out with startling statements about supplements, it is worth pointing out that just because it is a supplement, does not mean it is always safe.  NPR recently posted an article about the number of ER visits due to supplement use/misuse. Though I feel this was faulty representation and does not mention the number of ER visits due to pharmaceutical use/misuse, it nevertheless makes the point that supplements too, can be dangerous if we aren’t informed. Recent studies (conducted by independent labs, scientists, and/or newspapers) in which dietary supplements (DS) were randomly and independently tested have shown that DS products do not always contain the ingredients (or the purity of ingredients) stated on the product label. This concern goes across all supplements: vitamins, minerals, herbs/botanicals, and amino acids.

To complicate matters, manufacturers of DS are not currenlty required to submit products to the scientific scrutiny of the FDA because DS are regulated as a food product, not a drug. The Federal Trade Commission regulates advertising of product claims, this is why you see “this product was not intended to treat or cure…” on the labels, but that has nothing to do with the purity and quality of the pill you’re taking. The FDA has the authority to spot-check supplements (and to remove products that violate certain regulations) but is not required by law to test, or require testing, on all over-the-counter supplements.

Several private groups, as well as the Government Accountability Office (Natural Resources and the Environment Division) want more done to hold supplement makers accountable for the purity of their products. It’s a heated debate, but as more clinicians, consumers, and retailers call for standardized practices for testing, producing, and marketing DS before they go on the market, the more confident we all can be about what we’re buying.

It is important to be an informed consumer:

  1. Read labels and understand what the terms on the label actually mean (See Diagram). Ingredients you don’t want to see include fillers, dyes, lead, dextrose, titanium dioxide, and magnesium stearate.
  2. If it sounds too good to be true, chances are, it probably is
  3. Look for a Quality Assurance seal of approval: Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) and the U.S. Pharmacopeia (USP).
  4. Purchase products from your healthcare provider or a reputable company.
  5. Research the product / company on the Internet: National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM). Look for product recalls and scams:  FDA Health Fraud Scams & Tainted Supplements.

Your best source of educational support is your health care practitioner. Particularly a healthcare provider that is educated in nutraceutical use!


Spiced Pumpkin Bread

Adapted from Bon Appétit Fast, Easy and Fresh cookbookpumpkinbread

Yield: 2 loaves

Preheat oven to 350°F

Butter and flour two 9x5x3 inch loaf pans


  • 3 c. gluten-free flour mix (I’ve also played with subbing  1 1/2 c. coconut flour, I think almond flour would work here too)
  • 1 tsp ground cloves
  • 1-2 tsp ground cinnamon (I really like cinnamon!)
  • 1 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 1/2- 2 c. raw sugar or honey (depending on sweetness level desired)
  • 1 c. high oleic sunflower oil or organic butter
  • 3 large eggs (room temp)
  • 15 oz. (1 can) pure pumpkin
  • 1 c. chopped walnuts (optional)


Sift first eight ingredients into a large bowl. In second bowl, beat sugar and oil to blend, and then add eggs and pumpkin. Mix well. Stir dry ingredients into pumpkin mixture in two additions, just until blended*. Add nuts, if desired.

Divide between loaf pans. Bake approximately 1 hour 10 minutes, or until tester inserted into center comes out clean. Transfer to racks and cool in pans for 10 minutes. Cut around sides of pan with a knife to loosen. Turn loaves onto rack to cool completely.

* on an honest/lazy note, I really put ALL the ingredients into the mixer and mix all at once.


It’s October – PUMPKIN season!!

pumpkinFor those of you that don’t know, I’m a HUGE pumpkin fan! Fall decor, yummy treats and picking out my pumpkin to carve, I love it all!

From Shakespeare’s reference to “pumpion” in The Merry Wives of Windsor to The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, pumpkin is woven into the fabric of history and cuisine. Native Americans roasted long strips of pumpkin over an open flame and ate them. Colonists made pumpkin pie by slicing off the pumpkin top; removing the seeds; filling the rind with milk, spices, and honey; and then baking the pumpkin over hot ashes. And we all know pumpkin transforms into Jack-o-lanterns for Halloween decor. Today, we appreciate pumpkin not just for culinary traditions, but also for its abundance of nutrients and versatility in healthy meal preparation, such as soufflés, stir-fries, soups, bread, jam, butter, and desserts.

A member of the Cucurbitaceae family of vegetables (along with cucumber and squash), pumpkin is cultivated around the world for both its fleshy vibrant orange meat and seeds. It is a naturally low calorie (49 calories per one cup serving), yet filling food that offers the following health benefits:

Health Benefits

  • Pumpkin contains no saturated fats or cholesterol. It is rich in dietary fiber, antioxidants, minerals, and many antioxidant vitamins, including A, C, and E.
  • It is also an excellent source of many natural polyphenolic flavonoid compounds such as beta-carotenes, lutein, and zeaxanthin. Carotenes convert into vitamin A inside the body. Zeaxanthin is a natural antioxidant that may offer protection from age-related macular disease.
  • Pumpkin is a good source of the B-complex group of vitamins including niacin, vitamin B-6 (pyridoxine), thiamin, and pantothenic acid.
  • It is a rich source of copper, calcium, potassium, and phosphorus.
  • Pumpkin seeds provide dietary fiber and pack a powerful mix of protein, minerals, and vitamins: 100 g (1 cup) of pumpkin seeds provide 559 calories, 30 g of protein, plus folate, iron, niacin, selenium, and zinc.

Stay tuned for pumpkin recipes!


Don’t Let Food Labels Give You Indigestion

labeslWhen you are cruising the grocery store aisles, you probably flip over a few items to scrutinize their nutrition labels. But do you understand what you’re looking at? Most people don’t! I try to educate my patients on what to look for and the government is working on updating the label to reflect today’s nutritional concerns and include more realistic serving sizes, but until that happens, use the diagram included with this article to help make quick, informed food choices that contribute to a healthy, balanced diet. Also, remember these helpful tips:

  1. Nutrition information is provided for one serving of a food or beverage. Many products contain more than one serving. If a serving size is one cup, and you eat two cups (or the whole package), then you must double (or more than double) the calories, fat, sugar, and other ingredients to get an accurate estimate of how much you’ve eaten. If you’ve eaten a smaller portion than what is on the label, calculate accordingly.
  2. Pay special attention to the amount of sugars (including carbohydrates) in one serving. This is especially important if you have diabetes (or other health concerns) that require you to monitor sugar intake or the glycemic index of foods.
  3. Check out the amount of fat, especially saturated fat, in one serving. Fats contribute to many chronic health problems. Trans fats are also labeled because they are known to contribute to “bad cholesterol,” which contributes to heart disease. Choose foods that are low in these fats. However, some foods, like nuts, have high fat content, but the source of fat is actually good for the body–it’s not a saturated or a trans fat.
  4. Be aware that “0” does not mean zero! It means less than 5% per serving!
  5. In addition to understanding the nutrition label, take a look at the list of ingredients. If you cannot pronounce the words that are listed on a food label, it’s likely coming from chemicals and processed (unnatural) elements that are not healthy for the body. Some of the items you want to avoid include:
    • Preservatives including BHA, BHT, brominated products
    • GMO – genetically modified organisms, common in corn and soy derivatives
    • Dextrose
    • Xanthan gum
    • Hydrocarbons (pesticides PCB, DDE, DDT)
    • Soy and cottonseed oil
    • Dyes (e.g., yellow dye no. 5, tartrazine)
    • MSG – monosodium glutamate (common in canned foods and Asian cooking)
    • Food allergens – if you or family members have a known allergy to peanuts, wheat, soy, or gluten

If you are in a hurry and can’t take the time to read labels, do your best to avoid packaged (bag, box, or bottle) foods. Instead, buy fresh foods and “eat a rainbow everyday” (e.g., fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds, cheese, yogurt). Also, choose water, tea, or juices with no sugar added. For more colorful food ideas, you can like my Facebook page!

Finally, pay attention to what’s happening in the news … in July 2015 the government proposed a new nutrition information panel for food labeling. The public is invited to provide comment.